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Why were the window panes different colours?

Started by russellsuthern, Jun 20, 2014, 02:02 pm

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Sorry if this one's been asked & answered, but why were the window panes on the original Police Boxes different colours?
When I saw the different colours on the tv prop, I assumed it was supposed to be showing repair work from broken panes due to age or vandalism, but when I see photos of original boxes, they all seem to have it, & the design is too regular to be repair work, so it must be deliberate, but why?
Hope someone can help,



Jun 21, 2014, 08:37 am #1 Last Edit: Sep 30, 2016, 01:09 am by hb88banzai
The panes were indeed different, most likely for specific reasons.

The windows in Met Boxes first started out (in the 3-10 prototypes) as all roll-patterned glass, probably in the same "pebbled" pattern used in the later production Boxes (though the Trench plans state "hammered", which is actually a bit different in overall effect). This was to allow light in to illuminate the box during the day, but to block anyone from actually seeing what was going on inside, day or night.

These did the job well, but were as effective at blocking the view out as in. It was apparently quickly realized that being able to actually look out was desirable for a Constable inside the Box, so beginning with the first Mark 1 production models (1929) they put a transparent blue tinted pane in the bottom centre of each window. This allowed the occupant to see out relatively well, but still made it difficult to see in, especially during the day.

The Met Boxes continued with this pattern of five pebbled and one blue (or in the Trench plans "neutral-tinted") pane in each window from 1929 to mid-1935 (the last of the Mark 2's in J Division).

It is theorized that the blue tint still made it a bit difficult to see out as well as screwed with the ability to see colour properly with the new traffic signal lights, etc. Regardless, beginning in mid 1935, when the first of the Mark 3 Met Boxes were built, the top row of panes was made fully clear so that when the need arose the Constable could stand on tiptoes (or prop himself on the desk or stool) and see out without obstruction. Someone on the inside is at least half a foot higher than somebody standing outside the box, so there remained little risk of the Constable's activities inside being spied upon without the use of a ladder or something else to stand on. I imagine it also helped make the inside a bit less claustrophobic for the occupant when taking tea or a meal break, and one could see what the weather was like before stepping back outside.

Note that this window pattern being used in the existent Trench plans is one of the many details that seem to date them to early 1935, the transitional period between the Mark 2 and Mark 3 Met Box designs, rather than to the usually ascribed 1929. Regrettably, any earlier sets of plans seem to have been lost to history.

The official pattern for the Box windows remained like this for the rest of their service history (or not - see EDIT below for an update on this), though those with the old pattern weren't updated in most cases except maybe during repairs. Spotty maintenance often resulted in a mix-and-match pattern, however, as we now see on the Crich Box, so the wandering panes we see on some of the TARDIS props at various times actually mirrors reality. The Hudolin TV-movie box especially shows this.

In contrast to the originals, the TARDIS has mostly emulated this later, Mark 3 pattern, but making the blue-tinted lower centre pane clear like the top panes. The result is usually all clear panes save the two lower corners of each window, which are "hammered" or "pebbled", or in some other way patterned instead of simply clear or frosted.

The difference in colour you see on the current props (and the old ones, for that matter) is likely due to the corner panes being made of different materials with different light scattering properties, probably accentuated by the patterned panes holding on to dirt and dust more, subtly tinting things further.

EDIT: Additional research has shown that the Mark 4, Crich type Boxes, which were all originally installed some time between circa 1940 and circa 1953, largely reverted back to the original pattern of using all "pebbled" glass save the centre bottom pane of each window, but with the difference that this pane was now clear instead of tinted blue. Perhaps this was done to simplify things and reduce the logistics involved in dealing with the tinted panes and more complex Mark 3 (TARDIS-like) pattern, especially considering the effects of wartime (and early post war) supply shortages for things like paints and dyes.

Note that all the Met Boxes installed from mid-1954 on were of the Mark 5 type, which were a significantly different, more simplified design, so are not really applicable to this discussion.


Wow, Thanks for that- a really helpful reply. It all makes sense now!!!